Tradeston isn’t the first area of the city that springs to mind when you think of great food. This neglected and grimy enclave south of the Clyde seems to have been on the cusp of regeneration for years without ever quite getting there. But a few plucky restaurateurs have taken the plunge and opened up here, perhaps anticipating residual footfall from Springfield Quay just along the road. So with Sholeh, a restaurant offering traditional Persian cuisine, we’re off the beaten path. But is it worth your while to wander across the footbridge from the Broomielaw for lunch?
As you approach the restaurant you could be forgiven for answering a resounding “no chance”. Paint peels from weather worn cladding and the brick and glass frontage doesn’t immediately scream Persia. But once inside, a warm welcome and a cosy booth start to redeem the place. No it’s not going to win any design awards but it’s clean and comfortable in marked contrast to the dilapidated exterior.
With this obvious lack of kerb appeal, it’s left to the food to save the day. Persian cuisine is all about roasted meats, hearty stews and flat breads with dips, and all of these are present and correct on Sholeh’s menu. A mere £7.50 will get you two courses from a generously varied lunch menu. Starting with bread and dips might sound boring but when done so well it’s anything but. The house-made hummus was zesty and fresh while the salad-e olivieh made for a surprisingly tasty accompaniment. Think somewhere between egg mayo and chicken salad with some added chunky vegetables. Both of these were just begging to be scooped up in a big piece of hot Persian naan bread. That bread, incidentally, is incredible. Hot, thin and stretched to the size of a small duvet, it had a smoky sesame flavour that I couldn’t get enough of.
Next up for me was a skewer of boneless, marinated chicken served with saffron rice and roasted tomato and peppers. It’s the simplest sort of food: meat, starch, vegetable. But when it’s so simple it needs to be spot on. The chicken was perfectly seasoned and the garlic and lemon marinade tenderised as well as adding a burst of flavour. The roasted tomato and pepper were sweetly smoky and the saffron rice was another triumph: fluffy, pungently flavoured and incredibly moreish. So much so I almost neglected the second duvet we’d ordered to accompany the main courses.
On the other side of the table things were going just as well. It was chicken once again, but this time Zereshk Polo ba Morgh. This is a slow-cooked, succulent chicken leg simmered in a sweet and sour sauce and served with saffron rice bejeweled with zereshk berries (common barberries to you and me). The chicken fell pleasingly to bits at the merest prod and the sauce was rich and complex. The rice, studded with berries and flaked almonds, was great once again.
Sholeh isn’t going to win you over with slick good looks or a killer location. So it’s important for their continued survival that the food delivers. On this evidence it does that and then some. Middle Eastern food might struggle to find fans in Glasgow, as evidenced by the recent demise of Great Western Road’s “Persia” and “Anatolia” from the city centre. That’s a pity, but it might be a matter of bad marketing. “Babs” has recently opened to great acclaim, perhaps demonstrating a slightly more brute force approach to hawking their wares. Their strapline is “Kebabs done right”, and it’s a ballsy claim, but it also leaves you in no doubt as to what to expect. Maybe it’s time for the likes of Sholeh to show them how it should be done.
The food was great and the bill was comically tiny. Two starters, two mains, three soft drinks, two naans and two coffees for a touch under £30. And those flat breads might just be the best £1.80 you can spend anywhere in the city.
Out of the way location
Exterior is poorly maintained